Home » Higher Education » Learning and Writing vs. Writing for the Instructor

Learning and Writing vs. Writing for the Instructor

There are always a few students in a class who are more concerned with writing for the instructor, than with writing something that they are keenly interested in or perhaps even believe. I feel a slight sense of frustration when I hear that they “just want a good grade.” This is a common lament among educators, so what do we do? Since the majority of the courses that I teach focus on gender, the students know that I am a feminist and hold feminist issues near and dear to my heart. Due to this, some of them sense that this bias is somehow more insidious than my Marxist’s colleagues beliefs.

What do I do? I tend to play devil’s advocate lots during lecture and try to push the students. Sometimes, gasp, I’ll even say things that I don’t necessarily believe, but I might want to instigate some discussion among the students. I hope that they leave the class with a better understanding of the concepts, yes. But, more so, I want them to leave better critical thinkers. And, this means that they don’t have to agree with me. Hopefully, some of the students working on their papers will read this and augment their papers accordingly. Don’t write for me. Write the for the argument–write the paper.

2 thoughts on “Learning and Writing vs. Writing for the Instructor

  1. Some of this is evidence of the extent to which their experience gives them ample evidence that learning something and good grades are not always directly connected. Which depresses me if I think about it too much.

    I think it is also related to the transition from a fact based approach to the material and an argument based approach. Being really explicit that all academic writing is engaging in debate and helping them see how those debates are constructed (which means getting them to read actual articles and books rather than pre-digested textbooks; but I think you do this) gives them some of the tools they need to make this shift and thus argue the thing they want to argue.

    The other contributing factor is years of being told not to put their own opinion into an essay. This infuriates me. No, I don’t want your unreflective opinion. But yes, I do want your opinion. Based on what you’ve learned in this course and through the reading you’ve done for this course, what is your opinion of this? A hard distinction to explain maybe but crucial to enabling them to disagree with you.

    • Dear Jo: I agree with you. The sheer number who come to my office hours and ask, “Can I write in first person?” is breathtaking. Some of them don’t completely understand this opportunity to think critically. I want to see them wrestle with something they’ve read or that I said. However, occasionally some of them will do the “bait and switch” and not really answer the question or not incorporate course materials. This is a problem–especially when the directions are specific. I don’t want them to accept the ideas, but think about them. That is where those a-ha moments can take place.

      I love seeing those moments in class–yes, even when they vehemently disagree with me or what I’ve said. I think that it surprises them when they found out that I don’t always share my perspective. They make assumptions. Well, we all make assumptions.

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